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“Little brothers watching you:” Raising awareness of data leaks on smartphones

Today’s smartphone applications expect users to make decisions about what information they are willing to share, but fail to provide sufficient feedback about which privacy sensitive information is leaving the phone, as well as how frequently and with which entities it is being shared. Such feedback can improve users’ understanding of potential privacy leakages through apps that collect information about them in an unexpected way. Through a qualitative lab study with 19 participants, we first discuss misconceptions that smartphone users currently have with respect to two popular game applications that frequently collect the phone’s current location and share it with multiple third parties. To measure the gap between users’ understanding and actual privacy leakages, we use two types of interfaces that we developed: just-in-time notifications that appear the moment data is shared and a visualization that summarizes the shared data. We then report on participants’ perceived benefits and concerns regarding data sharing with smartphone applications after experiencing notifications and having viewed the visualization. We conclude with a discussion on how heightened awareness of users and usable controls can mitigate some of these concerns.


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